109. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Justice if she will examine the situation in cases of shared custody arrangements that permission is needed from the other parent if one wishes to bring their children to Northern Ireland recognising the freedoms granted by the Good Friday Agreement in respect to an open Border and the unnecessary difficulties this presents for families living in Border communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36657/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Where the parents of a child cannot agree on custody or access arrangements for their child, it is open to them to apply to the courts to decide on the matter.
Section 11 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 provides that either parent of a child, whether or not he or she is also a guardian of the child, may apply to court for a direction regarding the custody of a child or the right of access to the child. A court may also make any necessary orders under section 11 when it is dealing with proceedings relating to divorce or judicial separation.
Section 3 of the 1964 Act provides that the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration for the court in any proceedings where guardianship, custody or upbringing of, or access to, a child is in question. Section 31 of the 1964 Act sets out a wide range of factors that the court is required to take into account when determining the best interests of the child in such proceedings. These factors include, where applicable, proposals made for the child’s custody, care, development and upbringing and for access to and contact with the child, having regard to the desirability of the parents or guardians of the child agreeing to such proposals and co-operating with each other in relation to them. The courts shall have regard to all of the factors or circumstances that it regards as being relevant to the child concerned and his or her family and make its decision accordingly.
Section 12A of the 1964 Act provides that in making any order under the Act, the court may impose such conditions as it considers to be necessary in the best interests of the child.
The Minister for Justice has no role in the making of court orders in relation to guardianship, custody and access to children. This is a matter for the courts, which are, subject to the Constitution and the law, independent in the performance of their functions.